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1808 $2 1/2 AU50 PCGS. Bass-3017, Breen-6125, R.4. From 1795 until 1804 the U.S. gold coin of choice for foreign trade was ...

2006 January Orlando, FL (FUN) Signature Auction #394

 
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Auction Ended On: Jan 5, 2006
Item Activity: 13 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Orlando, FL
Description:
Original One-Year Type 1808 Quarter Eagle, AU50 PCGS
1808 $2 1/2 AU50 PCGS. Bass-3017, Breen-6125, R.4. From 1795 until 1804 the U.S. gold coin of choice for foreign trade was the ten dollar gold piece. The combined mintage for all ten dollar gold coins during those years was roughly 130,000 coins, with a face value of $1.3 million. From 1804 until 1838, with no coinage of the ten dollar gold piece, the five dollar gold piece was the largest national gold coin. In those years, the half eagle was produced in quantities of about 2.1 million pieces, or $10.5 million in face value. No silver dollars were coined from 1805 (those made in 1804 were dated 1803) until the 1830s, and most domestic exchange was carried out through various paper media, whether debit, credit, or currency.
In contrast, the lowly quarter eagle, the smallest national gold denomination until introduction of the gold dollar in 1849, was minted only sporadically, and then in mintages that were limited even by 18th and 19th century standards. Recorded mintages of quarter eagles from their introduction in 1796 through 1834, when the Classic Head type premiered, amounted to about 64,000 pieces totaling $160,000, or about 3% of the total half eagles minted. The workhorse coins for domestic commerce were the large cent and the silver half dollar.
Speaking of the Heraldic Eagle two and a half dollar gold design (1796-1807), Walter Breen, in his Encyclopedia, wonders not why so few were made, but rather why they were made at all, suggesting they were ordered in small quantities by local banks and further positing that survivors, based on their condition, "spent most of their time in vaults." This background is perhaps a less obvious way to say that the present 1808 quarter eagle, with a tiny mintage of 2,710 pieces, was a rare coin on the day it was struck, and one that continues to be in ceaseless demand both as a popular one-year type coin--and as mint assistant engraver John Reich's sole contribution to the quarter eagle series--as well as by date collectors. Most survivors fall in the VF to XF range, with AU and above coins being extremely rare.
The present lustrous specimen has a strike that is uniformly weak at the (non-existent) rims, as always seen, with most stars showing no center details and reverse weakness on the eagle's wingtips. The color is superior, a consistent, original honey-gold that mellows to a slight copper tinge on the reverse. Marks are minor and grade-consistent, the most obvious being a tiny dig noted with a glass between the bust and date. A small rim nick at star 12 is noted. The combined NGC and PCGS populations list 10 coins in AU50, with 70 finer (10/05). These figures likely include multiple resubmissions and crossovers.(Registry values: P8) (NGC ID# 25FD, PCGS# 7660)

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